The Life Beyond the Mask
Reza A.A Wattimena
It is said that Abraham Lincoln, once president of the United States of America who pioneered the legendary abolition of slavery, was a shy person. He was lack of association with his families.
He often shut himself in his room, reading books, struggling with his science project which is not yet clear what will it become. He did not have many friends.
However, when he saw there was something wrong, especially about others, he can immediately turn into fierce, assertive, and not compromise. He is also known for his ambitions.
He can change in a flash, 180 degrees, to become a figure that is completely different than before. Maybe that’s why he wanted to become politicians, and then became one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States. We never know which of the original Lincoln, could be the president, could also be the shy child who almost did not have any friends at all.
Mrs. Dewi, a mask dancer from Cirebon, suddenly changed, when she wore a mask to perform mask dance which has been her profession for a lifetime. She instantly became the role which given to her, namely the role that matched the mask.
In the blink of an eye, she immediately united with the mask. Although she is old, she was instantly transformed into a young, energetic, and even pounding, like a crazy horse (Ajidarma, 1997).
Of course, it is only temporary, because as soon as she took off her mask, she returned to the original Mrs. Dewi, which is an old, wise, and gentle person. Once the mask is opened, the dancer returned to the old personas.
But, that is not the main problem.
Apparently, everyone always wear a mask which has been selected for themselves. There are various masks that can be selected, ie, masks a good husband, good wife, a girlfriend, or just whatever they think is best and right for themselves.
However, is there any true self which is exist behind the mask? Apparently, we’ll never know.
Imagine, every person has a collection of masks that are hung on their hangers just behind the exit door. Well, they can choose what masks they use, if they want to get out of the room.
There are people who choose to wear a mask factory workers, other times he became the society leader, other times he became the badminton player. Not only that, if he is bored, he can go back to the room and change the mask. Good lover and intimate person can turn into a fierce boss in the blink of an eye.
However, among so many masks that hung idle on clothes hangers, which one is the original face?
Indeed, in everyday life, we do not see the mask, but we see the faces of those we meet. In other words, the people always seemed to wear their own faces, and never the masks.
Deep in our hearts, we always knew, the faces that we met were basically just a mask.
This fact is reflected in depth by Ellias Canetti, Bulgarian philosopher, in his book Crowds and Power (1984). For him, human beings are, as well as a caterpillar and a butterfly, is a creature that can changed.
Humans are creatures who constantly changing, which is not consistent to a single identity, but fragmented in the multiple layers. With this ability, humans are not much different from animals in their ability to ‘cheat’ the enemy.
Soldiers who wear clothes, that resemble the surrounding environment to deceive the enemy, just like a chameleon who always adapt to the color of ground they occupy. The tribes of primitive hunters often equate their self-identity with one of the animals they admired. The hope is clear, so that they can be as strong as the animals.
Then, is it possible that one of the mask, which hung on a hanger, is our true face?
Are we really have a true face?
Every moment of our lives, we are always given a certain role. That role could have been voluntarily, or by compulsion. The role always change.
A director of an international company, famous fierce in his office, could turn into a kind and gentle person in front of his daughter at home. A professor of chemistry at the university can seem helpless in front of his beloving wife.
Whatever mask we wear, we have to perform the role, whether like it or not. There are people who wear a certain mask not because of his own free will, but because coercion from others. That is indeed a pity.
Then, when people really being themselves? Or, can a person be his or her self?
Can someone be him or her self, if it turns out, the crowds do not like it? It is sad, if we can not be ourselves.
Often, we are not allowed to be ourselves, because we will be disturbing the interests of the COMMUNITY (Ajidarma, 1997).
I, and of course you are, would often see people who wear a particular mask in order to please others. If there are top 10 chart for the most miserable people on this beloved earth, these people fit into the top.
Maybe, if we let go of the mask we wear, we will not find anything in our faces. We are the masked men, but don’t have face…
Perhaps, too, we have been mistaken for one by making a mask that we use as our own face … Whatever it is, as written Seno Gumira Ajidarma nearly 10 years ago, "if you looked in the mirror pal, make sure, that you are not wearing a mask "(ibid) ….
Indeed, as argued by Canetti, the changing process in the human nature have no boundaries. The limits of the changes are the limits of human imagination itself.
Ah, is this indicate that we almost do not know anything about ourselves?